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Wednesday, October 4, 2017


On February 26, 2010, several CT State Agencies came together to sign a multi-agency agreement to coordinate efforts to further the interests of fathers over that of mothers. These Agencies were the Department of Social Services, The Department of Children and Families, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Department of Public Health. The beginning of this agreement made several statements in order to justify this promotion of father's interests over that of mothers in violation of the CT Constitution Article I, Section 20 which forbids discrimination based upon gender. One such statement was as follows, "Children who grow up in families headed by single mothers are five times more likely than two parent families to live in poverty." Subsequent statements continued on to blame single mothers for a high percentage of high school drop outs, juvenile delinquency, drug use, teen pregnancy and mental illness. 

If this is what they are being told, no wonder America hates single mothers! Conservative scholars and politicians are pretty much blaming single mothers for poverty and for every other social problem that exists!  In other words, they have taken one of the symptoms of social and economic injustice, and turned it on its head and made it the cause.

What I would like to know is where is the research these conclusions are based upon? How were these studies able to zero in with such exactitude on single mothers as the source of the problem without regard to other factors such economic policies and social injustice. Personally, I doubt that this is possible because such issues are so interdependent, and my guess is that if you investigate these studies further, they will be found to be flawed. I suspect they were conceived and formulated by conservative think tanks much as the numerous fake news articles we saw in the last election. As we all know, correlation cannot necessarily be taken as cause and effect. Further, did researchers consider the problems caused by motherlessness? I'll bet you that they didn't because from the look of the rhetoric, such as that in the multi-agency agreement, the misogynist minds behind the push to slander and devalue single women don't believe a mother's love is at all valuable.

In the age of outsourcing, globalization, and mass incarceration, it is just false and misleading to place the blame for all the social ills of society on single mothers who are among the most vulnerable citizens in our nation. Yet one of the most sweeping social re-engineering programs in the US today which is costing taxpayers billions and billions of dollars — the fatherhood initiative and the Healthy Family and Responsible Fatherhood program — does just that. Based upon such theories, the federal government distributes these funds through the Department of Health and Human Services to assist men in their custody battles in family court and to provide housing, employment, and counseling services. If you are interested in the extent of the fatherhood funding here in the State of CT, please look up the John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative online. Take note that there is no such thing as a Motherhood Initiative. Why? Because why help mothers, even though 70% of the people who live below the poverty line are women and children?

In my view, the attack on single mothers is an attack on women as a whole, and is integrally connected with an attack on the African American community and the Hispanic community as well. It is the result of political conservatives and the religious right carrying out a strategic initiative to roll back the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement and Women's Liberation as well which they blame for low marriage rates and a number of other ills. It is an attempt on the part of these conservative and religious groups to reinstate the status quo of the 1950s where few people divorced, women were silent about domestic violence, father knew best, and African Americans knew their place at the very bottom of the social and economic totem pole. In short, it is a massive backlash, and I am here to say that it is absolutely unacceptable.

Instead of challenging the discrimination against women that relegates them to the lowest paying jobs available, instead of challenging the fact that women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, instead of ensuring safe and inexpensive daycare as well as parental leave, conservatives have decided that the way to solve the problem of poverty is to forcibly restore the two parent family. The primary area where conservatives have waged the war to reverse the achievements of feminism is in family court where funds that are provided to the fatherhood initiative to support fathers have been used to fund father’s custody battles and motivate legal professionals to favor the interests of men. This has gone as far as carrying out numerous custody switching schemes in which mothers are forced out of the lives of the children who are then given to abusers. According to the most recent estimates from The leadership Council, up to 58,000 children per year are handed over to their abusers.

The attack on single mothers originated from the Moynihan report published in 1965. Ironically, the Moynihan report, entitled "The Negro Family: The Case For National Action" was written by a political liberal, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who worked under President Lyndon Johnson. Mr. Moynihan concluded that in the Black community the high numbers of families headed by single mothers put the entire community at risk. He drew a direct link from women headed households to welfare and stated that as welfare expanded, divorce rates expanded because mothers relied upon the government for financial support and didn't feel they needed to remain married to the fathers any longer. He then associated single parenthood to a broad range of social ills including crime and poverty etc. while concluding that African-American couples who remained in a traditional marriage did not face these problems. Since this report was published, single parent families headed by mothers have risen in all ethnic and racial groups, although it remains highest in black families.

Moynihan stated that the problems in the black community were not caused by social injustice, but instead were caused by inherent flaws in black culture starting with the matriarchal structure of the black family. He felt that mother led households weakened the ability of black men to function as authority figures. As a feminist, my question is why should men function as authority figures any more or less than females should? The entire concept underlying the Moynihan report and all such theories, i.e. that women's self actualization and empowerment is, in some way, a threat to black masculinity and all black men as a whole, I find offensive. It is also important to note that in any culture, not just African American culture, where political and economic oppression exists, many communities end up being female dominated. For instance, Russian society to a certain extent, and also Irish Catholic society is traditionally matriarchal.

In 1986, Bill Moyer's television program entitled "The Vanishing Family -- Crisis in Black America" repeated the same conclusions as the Moynihan Report. It condemned Black society for being matriarchal and, therefore, the program concluded "rootless." But why? Why is a matriarchal society rootless? While these ideas were originally spoken of in connection to the black community, they quickly spread out into the overarching American society. Based upon these two reports, unfounded theories disrespecting single mothers spread rapidly and it soon became the norm for people to state that a mother can't possibly bring up her children properly without a father, that leaving children in the care of a single mother consigns them to a fate worse than death.

In this way, the misogynist drumbeat began that has fueled the backlash against women in the last few decades. It is this philosophy that has been used to justify the expenditure of billions and billions of dollars in the fatherhood initiative for the purpose of switching custody to fathers, or enabling abusive and controlling fathers to bully and torture their ex wives and children for years to come. In essence, conservative politicians and the evangelical right are using children within family court to coerce and blackmail women to relinquish their newly won civil rights. It is the inevitable culmination of the backlash which Susan Fahludi described so eloquently in her 1991 book “Backlash”. Religious organizations have been accessing this kind of funding through faith based initiatives since 2003 to the tune of approximately 2.2 Billion dollars a year.

Since 1996 when funding was shifted from feeding, housing and clothing poor women and children and poured into fatherhood programs, what has been the outcome of promoting traditional marriage as a panacea for poverty? For the better part, these programs have failed miserably. Why is that? Because despite what conservative politicians and religious leaders have said, the problem here has nothing to do with single mothers. The reality is that it all boils down to jobs. Studies indicate that men are considered more eligible for marriage, and are more likely to stay married when they have a good, steady job and can provide for their families. However, starting in the 1960s (yes the same time as the Moynihan Report), American Corporations began to outsource blue collar jobs abroad, for instance to Mexico, and in subsequent decades decent jobs with decent wages dwindled considerably. Manufacturing jobs were increasingly replaced with service positions. Then in the 1990s white collar jobs began to be outsourced abroad as well, and this trend became more pronounced with the passage of NAFTA in 1994.

Along with that the Republican party led an attack on the Unions beginning with the death of the Labor Reform Act of 1978. Then in 1981, when President Reagan took power, he launched the conservative attack on Unions, starting with the Air Traffic Controllers Union. Since that time, Union membership has been cut in half. The rich have been getting richer and the poor have been getting poorer. Instead of a good, decent paying Union job, many American workers have been forced to settle for working at two or three part time retail positions for minimum wage at a place like Walmart which doesn't give them any benefits. So the problem of poverty is not about single mothers; it is about economics, but the power elite want to distract people and blockade them from realizing the truth by playing upon their prejudice and hatred of single women. This is not only sad, but unethical.

Bottom line: what is the point of counseling fathers to be good role models when they can't even get a decent job with a sufficient salary to support their families?

In the Black community, not only is social instability caused by a lack of jobs, it has also been caused by Mass Incarceration. Currently, the U.S. has 5% of the world's population, but has one fourth of the worlds prisoners. Why is this? Because since 1980 when Ronald Reagan came into power, under the banner of enforcing law and order, our government has been rounding up massive numbers of men, primarily minorities, and incarcerating them. Thus, while in 1980 the Nation's prison population was around 300,000, it is currently at 2.2 million. Numbers like this represent a 500% increase in prison population from the 80s to the present.

The increase in prison population is not the result of an increase in crime rates, but is the result of the alteration of policies and legislation. An example of this would be President Reagan's Anti-drug Abuse Act of 1986, and get tough on crime legislation including zero tolerance policies and mandatory minimum sentences, etc. These policies disproportionately affect African-American men and Hispanics. In addition, there is the increasing militarization of law enforcement which has impacted Black men more than any other group. Currently, statistics indicate that one in five black males faces incarceration at some point in their lives. These kinds of numbers cannot help but influence the stability of the African American family. Thus, it isn't single mothers who are the problem; it isn't the matriarchy, or feminism. It is the outright attack of the American government on the African American community as a whole, and the targeting of African American men for take down.

While Corporations and the privileged 1% continue to push the racist and misogynist idea that single mothers are the cause of the breakdown of society, the reality is that it is the economic elite who actually bear responsibility for this state of affairs. These are the folks who have been exporting jobs, drastically cutting salaries and benefits for the remaining jobs available and conducting an all out attack on the Black community through mass incarceration. The solution to this problem is not to scapegoat single mothers or unnaturally shift the balance of power into the hands of men. The answer is not to waste billions of dollars on placing highly expensive fatherhood ads on television celebrating fatherhood, spending massive sums of money on unsuccessful efforts to return women into traditional marriages, or giving money to corrupt attorneys and mental health professionals to fund custody switching schemes that transfer abused children into the custody of their abusers. The answer is to restore the economy, to promote the return of decent paying jobs to this country, to provide safe and high quality child care for families, and to support the career goals of every American, not just men.

1 comment:

  1. You hit the nail on the head! Demonizing mothers has been a cover-up for giving privilege to wealthy and politically connected mostly males in divorce/custody. There are a myriad of groups involved - many are common names including Heritage Foundation and Family Research Council (James Dobson group) - others were specifically created to further the agenda of male supremacists or father's rights.
    I have a "history" of the fatherhood movement or "field" (they actually discuss what to call it) on my website - - there is a lot of info in here some of which I referenced in my book "Motherless America: Confronting Welfare's Fatherhood Custody Program" chapter called "War on Women."